Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Day You Have Just Lived

"You will be judged on the day you have just lived," came as an exhortation from a good and active priest one morning this past spring. A group of mothers had gathered to pray and reflect. I wrote this in my notes, and, since then, it has become a simple, yet powerful, prayer.

This morning my husband and I rose before our children and had a little quiet time. I was reading my Magnificat. There is a lengthy quote from Pope Benedict XVI on the souls in Purgatory and here is a good part of it:

With death, our life-choice becomes definitive -- our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred, and have suppressed all love within themselves...In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbors -- people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfillment what they already are.

Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life (emphasis mine). For the great majority of people -- we may suppose -- there remains in the depth of their being an ultimate openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil -- much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur?...[Saint] Paul [says] that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: 'Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor. 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through "fire" so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

Sin is at the bottom of the most profound Mystery of Faith, the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. So many people do not believe they are in need of salvation. Our Savior is both our hero and our best friend. The doctrines of Mother Church are merciful because they come from the Son of Mercy, our Lord, the Christ. The fires of Purgatory purify us, and we need purification. I think often of the famous quote of St. Catherine of Sienna, "Be who you are and you will set the world ablaze." Our Lord calls us to be grateful for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (Fear of the Lord, Knowledge, Fortitude, Piety, Counsel, Understanding and Wisdom) and to use them all at all times. Yet, we are weak and we fail. Then, we stoke the dying embers by our faith in the Sacraments; and, thanks be to God, He, by the request of Our Lady, fans our flame. Father, thank you for giving us Jesus as real food to enflame the fires of our love. Help us to love others as your Son has Loved us.

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